What Is the Difference Between AMA PRA Category 1 and Category 2 Credits? 

CMEList July 27, 2022

If you’re a physician looking to spend your CME allowance and expand your knowledge within your field, it’s important to make sure you are earning the correct credit types to meet your CME requirements. The American Medical Association (AMA) assigns CME credit to two categories: 

  1. AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ 
  1. AMA PRA Category 2 Credit™ 

Most physicians are required to earn AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™, to maintain certification and be up to date with CME. However, you might come across educational activities that do not qualify for Category 1, but for Category 2 instead. What is the difference between the two categories? 

What are AMA PRA Category 1 Credits? 

As the more commonly accepted of the two, AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™ are earned by physicians for a designated specialty area, such as neurology or family medicine. These credits can be earned through various media, including lectures (live or previously recorded), online conferences, and question banks. 

AMA PRA Category 1™ is commonly recognized as one of the metrics for verifying a physician’s participation in continuing medical education (CME) activities. Only the AMA or a CME provider accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) or a state medical society (SMS) can award these credits to physicians earning them. 

Physicians should be aware of organizations offering “Category 1 Credits” as opposed to AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™.  These credits are not the same, and physicians should ensure that the organization that they are buying CME activities from are legitimately accredited by the ACCME to award CME credits. Accredited CME providers are required to have 2 statements. One must state the source of their accreditation while the other designates the maximum number of AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™ for the activity.  

When looking to purchase CME with the purpose of earning AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™, be sure to look for this statement: 

“The [name of accredited CME provider] designates this [learning format] for a maximum of 

[number of credits] AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Physicians should claim only the credit 

commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.” 

Teaching medical students and residents requires a slightly different statement as the 

number of credits is not known in advance: 

“The [name of accredited CME provider] designates this live activity for a maximum of 2 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™ per 1 hour of interaction with medical students and/or residents/fellows. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.” 

Some of the types of CME activities for which accredited CME providers can award credit for include the following: 

  • Live activities
  • Enduring materials 
  • Journal-based CME learning
  • Test item writing
  • Manuscript review (for journals)
  • Performance improvement (PI) learning
  • Internet point of care learning (PoC)
  • Other activities

What are AMA PRA Category 2 Credits? 

The American Medical Association also recognizes educational activities that are not developed by accredited CME providers or qualify for direct AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™ as they do not fall under their criteria. These activities still offer valuable learning for physicians despite not being able to earn Category 1 Credits™. 

Category 2 CME activities are needed to quality for the AMA’s Physician's Recognition Award, a certificate that highlights a physician's commitment to ongoing education. Examples of these activities include: 

  • Teaching residents, medical students or other health professionals
  • Unstructured online searching and learning (i.e., not Internet PoC)
  • Reading authoritative medical literature
  • Consultation with peers and medical experts
  • Group discussions
  • Self-assessment activities
  • Medical writing
  • Preceptorships
  • Research
  • Participating in live activities not designated for AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™

Looking to earn AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™?

On CMEList, we have a wide variety of content that can earn you CME credits. If you're looking to credits quickly and easily, then check out board-style question banks from BoardVitals. Another great option is a platinum membership from AudioDigest, which grants you unlimited access to over 4,000 evidence-based audio lessons. If you just need a few credits and don't want to spend any money, head on over to our Free CME page, which features plenty of great content to earn CME credits for free.